For all of you Marquise Brown shareholders out there, I know what you are going through. You, like me, are probably sick and tired of wondering whether to hold, buy, or sell. In this article we’ll look at Brown’s history and what to expect going forward, hoping to provide a bit of clarity on the future of the Ravens’ primary wide receiver.
A look at the numbers from the last two seasons shows a general improvement across the board in Brown’s overall statistics from his rookie season. As a rookie, he hauled in 46 of his 71 targets. In 2020, he improved to 58 receptions on 100 targets. The boost in opportunity led to an increase in yardage, jumping from 584 to 769. However, his catch rate became less efficient dropping from 64.8 percent to a horrible 58 percent in 2020. Although the improvement in overall numbers is likely bolstered by a healthier sophomore campaign, the drop-off in efficiency is quite worrisome.
At first glance, the surface numbers all look good. However, the unfortunate reality is that the dream of a consistent WR1 season is just a story meant for a Hollywood screen. He’s a skilled wide receiver with a ton of upside. However, the volatility of a streaky offense limits his weekly output. I believe you shouldn’t tilt the speedy wide receiver after an overall finish of WR36. There is hope for a proper 2021 breakout and an opportunity to maintain his 2020 late-season finish as a top-24 wide receiver.
Through Weeks 12 to 17 in 2020, Brown tied for 13th in fantasy points scored (95.8) with Steelers Dionte Johnson. He was just 0.1 away from tying Browns Jarvis Landry for 12th. He scored eight touchdowns on 11 red zone targets putting him at 35th on the season. Touchdowns played a large part in propping up his points scored, but they shouldn’t be discounted.
How did Marquise Brown end up as the WR36 to end the season?
Brown had five games where he killed your lineup, putting up less than nine total points. Four of them came in a hellish streak of games, while the other came against the Chiefs in Week 3. Some could argue the weather or lack of proper usage was a factor in these games, but those down games happen for every wide receiver throughout the season. What could not be expected? A run of ineptitude so bad it potentially sunk your season.
Week 8, the Ravens faced off against the Steelers. Brown would have a long afternoon ahead of him. He ran the third-most routes on his season (34) on his highest snap percentage (100%) per Marquise Brown Stats Fantasy Ranking. Even with all of those snaps, he only came away with two targets. Luckily for his owners, both came in the red zone and one was a touchdown. Even more concerning is that Brown only saw six total air yards out of a possible 217 thrown by Jackson. Failing to script touches to your first-round playmaker is an egregious error and is inexcusable by offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
In Week 9, Brown went against a Colts secondary who would go on to finish the season as the fourth-ranked according to Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus. Brown had a good target share (21.7%) and was tied for the team lead in targets (five). He was second in both receiving yards (38) and receptions (three). But the Colts still managed to bottle up the speedy wide receiver, not allowing him to stretch the field with his opportunities. He was limited to only 28 completed air yards on a possible 48 and a mere 10 yards after the catch. Brown netted a 12.7 pard per catch stat line. However, over half of his output can be attributed to one play of 20 yards. Volatile shifts in the game plan have to be factored in with an offense designed to run the ball and take what is needed. Unfortunately for Brown, the Ravens had success in the running game and got ahead in the second half. No matter what the game script is, the run game will always dictate this offense. Brown more-often-than-not comes through with a big play to make up for his volume, but not this week.
In Week 10, Brown missed opportunities left and right netting only 14 out of a possible 110 air yards. To put those numbers into perspective, Brown accounted for 110 of the 267 total air yards against the Patriots. Even more telling for Brown would be his 110 yards accounting for seventh on the week across the league according to airyards.com – NFL data ready for analysis. Ahead of him: DeAndre Hopkins with 11 targets Chase Claypool with 10 targets,and rookie sensation Justin Jefferson with 10 targets. Brown only received six targets and was still on pace for air yard opportunity with some of the hottest names in the league. To go along with his air yards, he ran his second-most routes on the season (36). He did this while playing 98.4 percent of his team’s offensive snaps. An abundance of opportunities were missed. It showed up in his 3.6 points on the week, but not all 3.6 points are the same.
Finally, Week 11’s matchup with the Titans was the worst outing of Brown’s 2020 season. He only logged 77.4 percent of the team’s snaps and ran just 27 routes. As you could imagine, it nerfed his upside with only three targets and a big zero in the receptions column. The only positives in this game were that Brown managed 58 unrealized air yards out of a potential 288. Those 58 yards still accounted for 20 percent air yard share on only 10 percent of the air opportunities. The 20 percent shows even in a low volume role, he commands a large portion of the Ravens passing game. The bottom line for this game is more about Jackson’s struggles than Brown’s play. The Ravens MVP quarterback was a mediocre 17-for-29 (58.62 percent) for 186 yards and one interception. Jackson looked pedestrian and Brown couldn’t overcome the situation without a touchdown. At the end of the week, Brown left you with a big zero in your lineup; truly disappointing.
Overall, through Weeks 8-11, Brown finished with six receptions on 17 targets for 55 yards. He finished the stretch as the WR91 tied with the Colts T.Y Hilton. What his stats do not show you at a quick glance is that Brown accumulated a total of 219 total air yards during this four-game stretch. Though it may not sound impressive, he also totaled 25.75 percent of Jackson’s 858 total air yards, which is an eye-popping number. In addition, Brown also averaged 90.68 percent of his teams’ offensive snaps while seeing four red-zone targets.
For as much as Brown struggled Weeks 8-11, so did Jackson. He had 114 attempts for a 64.56 completion percentage, five passing touchdowns (one finding Brown), four interceptions, and only one week as a top-15 fantasy quarterback. A couple of bad games can be expected, but a run like this can cripple your season and your outlook on Brown for 2021. But, as I said at the beginning of the article, do not tilt-trade Brown.
Being optimistic about Brown is not always easy. However, Brown finished stronger than you may think over the last six games of the season, and not surprisingly, so did Jackson. Brown averaged 16.02 points per game in the final six games of the season, one of those games being Week 12 against one of the league’s top pass defenses in the Steelers.
The Ravens were without Jackson, who missed the pivotal rematch due to a positive Covid-19 test. With Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley at the helm, he put up four receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. Through Weeks 13-17, Jackson didn’t finish outside the top-12 in a single week, with his lowest finish being Week 16. (21.3 points). He had the Ravens looking more like the offense responsible for shaking up the league in 2019. The most important correlation is that when Jackson is thriving, Brown is not far behind.
Brown didn’t stop at Week 17 and your 2020 evaluation shouldn’t either. In the two playoff games against the Bills and Titans, Brown came away with an additional 16 targets on 11 receptions for 196 yards. It should also be noted, after Jackson suffered a concussion rookie quarterback Tyler Huntley missed Brown on a 50-plus yard touchdown. Overall Brown managed to come away with an additional 30.6 fantasy points in the playoffs alone. Brown’s Weeks 12-19 looked a lot better with 15.8 fantasy points per game than in Weeks 1-11 where he managed 7.9 total fantasy points per game. It was a real “Tale of Two Seasons” for the Ravens wide receiver.
What does it all mean?
Maybe you drafted Brown too early. Maybe you made a big trade to get him after the Ravens offense blew up in 2019 and feel let down. Regression was inevitable, and yet there is still room for improvement in his fantasy finish. Having a wide receiver finish 36th does make sense given a 29-target improvement from 2019. And it could go up again in 2021. Any uptick in targets meshed with an improvement from his 71.7 percent catchable target rate (86th) or the 5.6 target quality rate (59th) would mean capitalization on Browns’ 100 percent route participation. Arousing when you take into account he has a top-12 target share (25.2 percent), top-20 total air yards (1,298), seventh-ranked unrealized air yards (794) and deep targets (25).
If you were to look at Brown at his base level you might think I was crazy to believe Brown has a top-24 upside in 2021. The numbers suggest he has the opportunity to develop into the big play receiver he was drafted to be, even if the Ravens bring in another wide receiver with a prototype “X” body type. Brown’s air yards and speed will make him an explosive big-play threat in a role more suited for him, which should open him up for cleaner looks and easier coverage on the outside. Although Brown may not be your plug and play wide receiver, Brown had 12 games of single-digit points out of 30 regular season games. Seven of those came in a rookie season in which Brown was recovering from a lisfranc injury.
Brown also has 10 games with 14 or more points; good for a top-20 receiver. This could mean you’re getting a top-20 receiver in 30 percent of his games. This leaves the rest of his career games at a fringe WR3 or flex play. Although not great, it certainly won’t ruin your week. At his current cost, this is the kind of upside I want on my roster in 2021 and you should too.Targeting a potential WR2 with fringe WR1 upside should be on every owners’ agenda in the quest for your leagues’ championship.
So, what do you do with Marquise Brown?
The answer is pretty simple. You acquire Marquise Brown if you don’t have him already. If you already do, you should be holding onto him. Browns’ value has taken a major hit as shown by Dynasty Trade Calculator.
His current perceived value makes him an easy buy going into the offseason. For more as to why I believe Browns’ ceiling supersedes his current perceived value, be sure to check out Jakob Sandersons’ (FF_RTDB) article 12 Steps to Turn your Cellar Dweller to an Emerging Dynasty.
A wide receiver with top-20 potential like Brown can easily be dismissed given his fantasy finish (36th). But in fantasy, you should be buying upside. Brown has upside; a soon-to-be 24-year-old wide receiver with the draft capital you look for (25th overall), who just finished his first full season playing in all 18 available games. He has all of the signs pointing to a bigger and better season in 2021. Opportunity and a path to improve on a young and explosive player is exactly what you should be buying. Don’t wait too long or your league mates might just catch on.